Imposter Syndrome While Black

Episode 3 Transcript

By Amanda P.


I remember crying when I found out what imposter syndrome was. I was in grad school. And my professor at that time was a woman and she was Latina, she started talking about her experiences in academic settings and doing research studies, and entering all these spaces. And feeling like someone’s going to find out I don’t belong, I’m going to be found out for being a fraud. I don’t belong in these spaces, knowing full well that she did the work, right, that she, you know, had the accomplishments to be in those spaces, but still feeling like a fraud, someone’s gonna find me out. When she labeled her experience as something called imposter syndrome. I literally was stunned. Like, she was relating to me, like, I had no idea I was feeling those same exact feelings for as long as I could remember but had no idea what it was until she labeled it. I remember her going into the bathroom and crying after she finished telling her story. And she came into the bathroom, as well just so happened. I wasn’t crying as I left the class but I went in there just to have a moment. And I thanked her and said “oh my god like I had no idea. That’s what it was called, I had no idea there was a name for it!”

Imposter Syndrome While Black

There’s something about having a name for something and feeling that sense of validation. With your experience, feeling that sense of Wow. Like, that’s what it is, now I can work on it. Now I can figure out what to do about it. It may come across as feelings of insecurity, feeling like I don’t belong, feeling like I’m a fraud. you’re judging yourself, you’re doubting yourself, right? So you may have some successes or achievements, and be in positions or roles that require you to have a certain level of intellect and experience, very successful, but feeling like someone’s gonna find me out, maybe I don’t belong in this space. But everything you’ve done up until that point has proven that you belong in that space. Right. So your high achieving now men, women, anyone can experience this. So it really is an experience that can be universal in some senses. However, when I think about imposter syndrome, it really makes me think of who we are as black women, right? And the experiences that we have, in general, some very similar to imposter syndrome. You know, like we are super aware, hyper-aware of our gender of our black skin and how we are perceived, right? So we might walk into a space and be like the only woman or the only black woman or the brown woman, Latina, Asian, and film-like all eyes are on us, right? And then those feelings of inadequacy might come up not saying it happens with everyone, but you might have those same kinds of similar thoughts or emotions or feelings that imposter syndrome can bring up for many of us.

So really it’s kind of like how do you decipher that? How do you figure out if this is imposter syndrome? Or is it you know, am I feeling this way? Because of my gender, my culture, my race. So I think that’s where imposter syndrome and you know, blackness and woman-ness come across the compound. So let’s go into what syndrome is. imposter syndrome was coined by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978 they did a study called the imposter phenomenon. Sometimes imposter syndrome is called that as well. So the study is called the “imposter phenomenon in high achieving women”. Definitely do your research and read the article yourself. And what they did in this study is they essentially studied really high achieving women, right? And they wanted to figure out why were these women having or feeling still, like they were inadequate, even though they were very successful. They were college professors, they were really high in the academic field, or they were going through grad school or going through college, but still feeling like I’m a fraud, I don’t belong. Now, we can think, of course back in the 70s, where, you know, they were still, of course, gender issues going on being a part of this. However, it was still an experience that women were having. 

Now, when you do read this study, and they coined this, and they state this in the study themselves, who they studied, were primarily white, middle to upper-class women, ages 20 to 45. So automatically, right, you can sense and see, there’s some bias there. It wasn’t a study, in my opinion, where it was all-encompassing, right, there wasn’t any diversity, or, or inclusivity. In their study. Right. So even though that experience of imposter syndrome might be shared by, like I said, anyone, whether you’re male or female, or regardless of how you identify culturally, or racially, it’s a shared experience. But it brings to mind intersectionality. For me, it brings to mind how that study didn’t fully capture how gender and how race plays into imposter syndrome. As black and brown women, like I said, we can be hyper-aware of when we walk into a space, you know, of our bodies of how we are, might be perceived, you know, as black women, we might be perceived, as you know, that whole angry black woman stereotype or the strong black woman stereotype or all these things that we know, not to be true, and that many of us don’t identify with, of course, but we still sometimes are aware of that, like, some people might still have those prejudices and biases, which is very unfortunate, and people need to change their way of thinking, but we’re still very aware of it. And unfortunately, there are many studies out there that don’t fully capture the experience of people based on their culture, or, you know, ethnicity or how they identify. So this is where that term intersectionality comes into play, or the theory intersectionality kind of comes into play here. 

Intersectionality Theory

So intersectionality theory was created by Kimberly Crenshaw, in 1991. So she did a study where she essentially determined that women of color, whether you’re Asian, Latina, or black, who were experiencing domestic violence, or rape, or any other socio-economic or justice issues, the experiences weren’t fully captured in the resources that they were trying to receive. In fact, some were discriminated against, because of those things, right. So because of organizations, not having this full understanding of cultural things, and how they are, you know, affect people that are looking for services, their services didn’t have that level of understanding or that level of insight into you know, what, in the black community, if a woman is experiencing domestic violence, you know, her calling the police might do more harm than good, right? Because we are fully aware of how society views, you know, black men, if that’s her abuser, and perhaps if someone is undocumented, right, perhaps they’re experiencing domestic violence or experienced some kind of assault, and they feel scared to call the police or to, you know, go for resources because they’re worried that their status might lead them to be, you know, taken out of the country. So those are factors that come into play, and those are factors that can lead Crenshaw went over and reviewed in her study, which is a really great study so once again, you know, do your research and you can read the study and make your own conclusions, but she really created that term intersectionality theory to kind of go into these things because there are studies and resources out there that really don’t fully encapsulate what it is that that people of color women of color experience. 

Imposter Syndrome and Intersectionality

So this just brings us back to imposter syndrome and intersectionality theory, and how our experiences as black and brown women, how it might be different for let’s say, someone that is white, right, like a white woman, like, how will imposter syndrome show up for us? How different does that look for you? Right? I know, for me, it really wasn’t until maybe a couple of years later when I really thought about this, like I experienced imposter syndrome. But for me, there’s other feelings that come along with that, right? Because I am aware of my blackness I am aware of, you know, my gender, I am aware of all these factors that make me that make the other women and men in my community, who we are and how society might view us. So how does that come into play with imposter syndrome? I think what it can do is really expound upon that, right? It really makes our experience look so much different than someone who might be white and experiencing imposter syndrome. Whereas maybe their coping skills or the ways that they kind of manage or deal with their imposter syndrome, it might be different for me, for you for us, right? Because, okay, yeah, say I get a handle on this imposter syndrome thing. But does that change the way, you know, society might look at me how I might be treated. Not necessarily, right, because it’s still a factor. Because any day if I deal with the imposter syndrome, I’m still black. I’m still a woman, I’m still Latina, I’m still Asian, I’m still, you know, whatever, who I am, who I identify as, I think those things are always going to be there. And there’s beauty and who we are, right? 

There’s beauty and diversity, and such greatness, and imposter syndrome, you know, you don’t want it to like, affect what you do. But sometimes it can be there still, you know, and it may be something you go in and out of life with or you may taper off, it may go away whatever it may be, but for those of us who are dealing with it, or who are handling it the best way that we can, you know, there’s still so many other aspects of our experience that doesn’t just end when we deal with the imposter syndrome part of it, we have so many other things that we have to be aware of. When we’re in certain spaces, you know, and it doesn’t stop us, which is the beautiful thing that I love about us as black and brown people is that we don’t let anything stop us like we are still achieving and have achieved and will continue to achieve greatness and amazingness. And like I said, when it comes to imposter syndrome, people who are very successful and have accomplishments, you know, are the ones that experience this kind of thing. And sometimes it might even stem from childhood. Right? Like were you a people pleaser, are you a people pleaser? You know, were you a parent pleaser, were you in situations where you feel like I have to do more and say more and be more to receive recognition. You know, that could also play into those past experiences that you know to develop that imposter syndrome, and still feeling that level of inadequacy still feeling like it wasn’t enough. 

The thing is our gender, our blackness, our differences, our diversity, it only gives us that much more power and strength. I think all of the women who came before us, who have opened up so many doors for us and how brave it was for them to do that, how much they probably went through imposter syndrome. Or just, of course, that awareness of their skin, their gender, and how they still broke down barriers. How they still said, You know what, I’m going to change things for the next woman, I’m going to continue to do what I need to do, and brave this out for the next woman. So those are the people that give me encouragement. Especially when I’m in a situation where I’m experiencing imposter syndrome and of course through awareness of my body, and my gender, my skin, whatever it might be. I think of those who came before me. I think of my ancestors who sacrificed and did so much for what we have now where I am You are today in this moment. And I allow that power and that strength to kind of guide me. You know, I think that’s something any of us and many of us probably do and can do, is really think about all the support you have behind you, and how you’re still leading the way for so many others.

So even as you’re working on, you know, addressing, and managing that feeling of do I belong, I’m going to be found out, you know, at least minimizing that feeling when it comes to our intersectionalities and our differences. And when we enter certain spaces, minimizing the effect that it can have, by reminding yourself of who has your back, who has your back, who opened that door for, you know, reminding you that you belong there. You belong to be in that space. You know, like even just having that as a reminder in the back of your mind, can allow you to push through like that imposter syndrome and get through that experience. So who do you look up to? You know, are there other women that you look up to that inspire you to enter certain spaces, right, to continue to, to open doors for not only yourself but other women. Finding someone that you recognize that has a similar experience as you can be so critical to moving through imposter syndrome. As a woman, as a black and brown woman.

I think that’s something you can use as you figure out this whole thing, right, this whole imposter syndrome thing, and as you manage it, and work through it, so given it some light, talking to friends about it, you know, I know, that’s something I did, like, I talked to my friends and realize, oh, wow, like you go through that too. You know, having that shared sense of community and being able to identify it and other people, or identify experiences and other people can give it some light and kind of take that pressure off of it or that power away from that feeling of feeling like an imposter or feeling like Oh, man, no, someone’s gonna find me out, I’m a fraud, because you’re not, you’re in those spaces for a reason you’ve earned the privilege to be in that space. And you did that. You did that. And you belong in that space. So you know, talking to your girls, and, you know, kind of getting some support in that is supercritical and helpful. And I’ll give a little bit of what I do. So what I’ve done is I’ve named her, I named that “B” like, I was like, You know what? I see you, I recognize you, and I’m going to separate from you the best way that I can so I’d name her. So when she comes up, I tell her Listen, I’m in the driver’s seat, sit your butt to the back, I got this. We’ll talk about this later. I see you, I recognize you. I know why you’re here. It’s because of fear. Because you think you don’t belong. But we belong here. take a backseat, I got this. Right. So literally separating and dividing and disconnecting, can be so helpful. And later on. I talked about it with myself, you know, I see, you know what we did that, look, we entered that space, we owned it, we did our thing, whether it’s an academia, whether it’s in a professional setting, whatever it might be, we did that, you know. And what that does is diminishes that imposter syndrome feeling bit by bit, and makes you that much stronger, you know, it might still be there. But it really is about the power that you give it you know the power that you give it to live within you. And knowing that you can have a handle on it. And sometimes that disconnecting from it can help you have that handle on it. 

How to Manage Imposter Syndrome Tips

Create your Cookie Jar

Some other things I think we can do to address this is to have a cookie jar, right? Like, maybe write little notes to yourself when you have an accomplishment or when someone gives you you know, some good advice or gives you a compliment something that you were successful on any kind of achievement, write it down on a piece of paper, put it like in a jar or just keep it somewhere so that when you have those moments when imposter syndrome might come up or you’re having feelings of doubt or whatever it might be. Reach into that cookie jar and remind yourself of how much a badass you are. remind yourself of why you belong where you are, and why the success So what you have is yours, and why opportunities are coming to you because you earned it. You can also, you know, keep a list, like on Google Docs, or keep notes, whatever it might be whatever you have in your phone. So when you do have those moments, when you’re like, wow, that made me feel really good like that has shown and proved, that I did that, like I am successful. And I own this. Just write it down, whether it’s in a cookie jar, whether it’s on your phone, to something you can access, to remind yourself of who you are, what you’ve done, and how truly amazing and beautiful you are. 

Stick to the Facts!

And remember to stick to the facts, stick to the writing that’s on the wall, you know, those certificates, you got that award, the reward, those compliments, everything, like just stick to the facts. You know, just keep it simple, like, you know, what I’ve shown I’ve proven, it’s literally right here in my face, what I’ve done. And that’s it, like sticking to the facts can also be supercritical and helpful in those moments when you just didn’t get through it really quickly. You know, and something as well as journaling, you know, journaling your emotions, like getting it out on paper, getting it out of your head. And like I said, Give it some light, get it out of that dark space and give it some light, and diminish that power that it has over you. So even though you know, we might be of course, aware of, you know, our gender and our skin color, which only gives us superpowers, I tell you like I love my black skin like I love being a woman. And I love it. So so much strength and power, and all of us black and brown women and you inspire me, oh my gosh, like we inspire each other. And like, it’s just only beautiful. It’s only beautiful, you know, so using that as our strength and our superpower. Knowing that that’s what gives us that more, much more competence to move forward. And to connect with each other is such a beautiful neck and just get us through any of those situations, whether it’s imposter syndrome or walking into space, and you know, being aware of your skin color or your gender, whatever it might be, just allow that to be your power. 


So for this episode, I want to leave you with an affirmation. But before I say that affirmation, but I want to tell you that the most profound thing you can do is to be radically yourself. The most profound thing you can do is be radically yourself. That means living in your power, standing in your strength. And then being the individual that you are. being who you are, at your essence at your core is enough. That’s it. Be radically you find the strength and power in that to get you through any kind of situation that you might be going through or experiencing when it comes to imposter syndrome or when you’re occupying or entering any spaces. 

The most profound thing you can do is be radically yourself. That means living in your power, standing in your strength. And then being the individual that you are. being who you are, at your essence at your core is enough. That’s it. 

So your affirmation for this episode is I am enough. I have enough and I am worthy of my accomplishments. I am enough. I have enough and I am worthy of my accomplishments. You truly, truly are. I hope you take that in and use it whenever you need that little refresher or reminder to be yourself to be radically yourself. Because you are enough, you are enough. You are enough, just as you are.